Riaan Manser | Adventurer, author and speaker best known for conquering multiple ‘first-ever’ trips

Riaan Manser

Riaan Manser is a solo adventurer who was the first person to cycle around the perimeter of Africa; he spent over two years cycling 37 000 km through 34 countries. In 2009, he became the first person to circumnavigate Madagascar by kayak, which is 5 000 km and took 11 months. He has also paddled 2 300 km for five months around Iceland and climbed Mt Kilimanjaro. Riaan has earned the title “OutThere Adventurer of the Year” in 2006 and 2009. He also started the initiative NO FOOD FOR THE LAZY MAN to invest in sporting equipment for schools without access to them.

Getting Into Adventuring | Actually the misconception people would have is that I was unhappy with life. I wasn’t! I had money in the bank, a pretty girlfriend, things are going to go pretty well for me! I’m looking forward to these weekends.  They’re fun. But it was a Sunday. It was a Sunday where everybody has that feeling in the evening, where you say, “Shucks… I had a great two days, with my family, did the things that I love doing, but now I have to go back to what things you don’t necessarily love doing, and what HAS to be done.” … I had said two options: change your life dream… totally and it would be pretty dramatic, or shut up and never complain again… The first option’s the one I chose.

Livelihood, Not Sponsorship | I don’t like the word “sponsor,” you know that!  It’s sort of a bugbear of mine… I’ve travelled to more African countries than our last three presidents combined. I’ve seen places that our presidents speak about. I understand theories and concepts that our presidents have spoken about and do not understand.  Give me a bit of credit.  I ask people that, because I have to get paid. I have to benefit in some way. It’s not a sponsorship. Iceland money wasn’t sponsorship. That was my future, my children’s future, my family’s future and my ability to get married.

Riaan Manser 3On People Not Understanding | Coming back from Iceland… to sit with people, have a beer, have a cup of coffee and discuss how it feels like to be criticized when nobody knows anything about you except your friends… you feel alone, when you’re criticized by strangers…you can feel alone. But speaking to other people who have probably been in that situation, successful people who have been criticized… you take strength from it, because the reality stays.

My Highlights | Mr. Mandela inviting me to come meet with him, standing next to him, the cameras and the media going crazy… I gave him this present of a beautiful picture of me riding next to a donkey cart in Senegal. And he looked at the picture. And I can only tell people that he kept looking at the picture, smiling and looking back at me. And that look he had in his eyes was of admiration. Now I felt arrogant. I didn’t tell people that for a long time, eh. I believed Mr. Mandela was looking at me in admiration. Now come on. I was blown away… I think that recognition from Mr. Mandela, and not even verbally, just to look at me with what I felt was admiration… it changed my life!

Definition of Leadership | Leadership is not when the going is good. Put any monkey at the steering wheel in front of a ship that’s racing at 300km an hour across an ocean on auto-pilot and he will get the ship across. Leadership is when you’ve got huge seas and you need to control every last little bump, wind and fuel.  Every last little thing. Things are going bad and everybody is shouting at you to make something of it. Everybody is expecting you to solve. Everybody’s livelihood, success and glory, everything is on you. And you feel helpless… When you stand up when you feel that helpless, you lead.

Riaan Manser 4Helping Children | Think about a child in a township laying there shivering themselves to sleep at night while I’ve been curled up in my warm bed in the evenings and their mom is sitting there crying because they can’t do anything about it. And that child has some disease. Has Cerebral Palsy; has something his mother can do nothing about. And if I can just try and do something to change a life, eh? If that child goes with me on a journey, I know I’m not going to be changing just that family’s life, but the community’s life. And no feather in my cap… I can’t wait to do something that I know is going to blow people’s minds away.  And I think Iceland was the beginning of it.

The Impact of Meeting Others | I will remember small little details that will probably amaze you about our conversation. But probably I will not remember your name because I am meeting thousands of people now, on a daily basis, thousands. Doesn’t change the way I feel about human beings.

Wanting Instant Gratification | We live in a world where things are instantaneous. And we want everything else to be instantaneous. I have lived in the same way. I am probably more so instantaneous and I crave instant gratification. If I want to rent a movie, I want it immediately, I want that movie, I want to see a trailer for it, I want it now, I want to open my laptop and see it now. It’s a problem when you live in that world. And I think sometimes, as little as I know about things, that the things that are worthwhile, the things that take time, they require perseverance and they mean a lot more.

Gaining Wisdom | Wisdom comes from experience, so if  you can only requote something someone said – that’s not clever, not wisdom. It’s actually learning and using different words to say to people who will listen. But if you give it some thought you will realize wisdom is very similar to a quote but it means a lot more.

Riaan Manser 5The Meaning of Life | Don’t let the world outside (media, newspapers etc) dictate what you need to actually be a human being.  We have got guidelines and things that make sense when it comes to health, but you don’t have to be the swimsuit model.  Start using logic, stop giving yourself excuses, stop taking every easy way out and then the thing about meaning of life plays itself out.


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